Pinus monophylla
(Singleleaf Pinon Pine)
[Torr.& Frem.]

Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinatae
Family: Pinaceae
Family Description: Pine
Key Characteristics:
  • one needle per sheath (rarely in two’s), 2.5-5 cm long, stiff, sharp-pointed, may be curved forward toward the twigs, gray-green to yellowish-green.
  • small, reddish pollen cones are clustered near twig ends on branch ends;
  • hard, purplish, egg-shaped, short stalked ovulate cones are also located near branch ends, 5-7.5 cm long and about as wide near base, becoming light brown or tan upon maturation;
  • scales are thick, stiff and blunt, each bearing two large seeds on upper surface.
  • larger than most pines, 1.8-2 cm long, brown, essentially wingless and thin-shelled.

General Description:
A low, sprawling tree with a short, usually crooked trunk and 4-15 m tall; bark irregularly furrowed except on younger limbs where it is smooth and light gray or yellowish; leaves usually 1 but sometimes 2 in a cluster, stout, Curved, 3-5 cm long; cones depressed-ovoid, 3-6 cm long, their scales thick, somewhat 4-sided, knobbed at the apex; seeds 12-15 mm long, edible. Dry hills. s, Idaho to Ariz. and Calif.

The center of distribution is Nevada, found throughout the state except in the extreme northwest. In Idaho it is found only in The City of Rocks area which is its northern most location south through western Utah into eastern California.

The center of distribution is in Nevada in juniper-pine woodlands on lower mountain slopes and canyons from 2100 to 7,800 ft elevation. It lives in dry, rocky soils.

The seeds, commonly called “pinyon nuts” are eaten by rodents, birds and squirrels. They were a staple food of local Native Americans and early pioneers and are still sought after in August when the cones are shed. Federal agencies, in order to provide for better cattle grazing, removed them by chaining, thus causing a hardship to the Native Americans who were dependent upon the seeds for food and for religious purposes. The oil rich, nutritious seeds are an article of commerce sold in many grocery stores in the produce departments, as well as used as a treat in homes of those who take the effort to collect them. They can be eaten raw, but are better roasted. They are nutritious because they contain much oil and starch. Pine nuts may rank second in use only to the coconut for human consumption.
To separate the seeds from the cones, they can be left to dry in mesh bags or put into ovens on cookie sheets. The heat opens the cones and the seeds fall out.
The heavy, soft wood has some value for fence posts and firewood.

“Pine needles make a very pleasant tea simply for the taste and have a mild diuretic and expectorant function as well. The inner bark boiled slowly for tea and sweetened with honey is still stronger as an expectorant, useful after the feverish, infectious stage of a chest cold has passed. The pitch is the most specific of all; a piece the size of a currant is chewed and swallowed. This is followed shortly afterwards by strong, fruitful expectoration and a general softening of the bronchial mucus. This remedy is especially useful for children. The pitch also has some value as a lower urinary tract disinfectant but would be inappropriate for use when kidney inflammation is present. In New Mexico, trementina (pitch) is warmed slightly over a stove or campfire and applied to splinters, glass, and other skin invaders, allowed to set, and peeled off, carrying the problem with it. While gathering near Questa one day, I encountered an elderly patriarch name Joe Rael (it was mid-afternoon and he was working on his third cord of wood for the winter) who had run a splinter half-way up his arm...or so it seemed. Cursing in obscure Spanish, he grabbed some pitch warmed it over a cigarette lighter in a crushed beer can, and slapped it on the wound, waited a moment, and plucked out the splinter with the pitch. I tried the same thing the next week, and got a blister for my troubles. An acquired technique, I guess. Sometimes it takes several days to facilitate the gradual isolation and extraction of the splinter, so stick with the pitch during several applications.” Quoted from Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West by Michael Moore, 1941 Museum of New Mexico Press Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504

Pinyon pine nuts contain the following:
refuse 40.6%, water 3.4%, protein 14.6%, fat 61.9%, starch 17.3%, ash 2.8%, and fuel value per pound, 3, 205 calories. (From Smith, J. Russell, 1950. Tree Crops-A permanent Agriculture Inland Press Washington, DC. Also in Harrington, H. D. l

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos & information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002